February 18, 2011
We became aware of the need for these regulations thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory, which requires large polluters to publicly and annually report their pollution.
When the issue was initially identified in 1998, gold mining was the 2nd largest mercury air polluter after coal power plants. (Metal mining was and still is the largest total mercury polluter -- by far -- when you count land and water releases in addition to air.)
This is an important issue because mercury air pollution is very toxic. Children of women exposed to relatively high levels of methylmercury during pregnancy show delayed onset of walking and talking, reduced neurological test scores, and delays and deficits in learning ability.
By Lauren Pagel
February 14, 2011
Released today, the FY 2012 Obama administration budget endeavors to end the taxpayer boondoggle known as federal hardrock mining policy. On behalf of Earthworks and all of the communities we work with in hardrock mining country, I d like to thank the President Obama for taking on this industry that has taken advantage of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law for far too long. The 1872 Mining Law, which lacks both royalties and protections for communities and precious western water resources, has left this country with at least $50 billion dollars in unreclaimed mine sites with no industry contribution to help deal with the problem.
The Obama administration proposes two things that would change the way that mining operates on public lands. Both of these changes would move us a step closer to cleaning up the mess that has been created by the current mining law.
First, the administration proposes a reclamation fee on the production of hardrock minerals based on the volume of material mined. This money would then be distributed through a competitive grant program to states where remediation is needed. This $200 million a year would go a long way in addressing the serious safety and water quality issues at many abandoned mine sites throughout the West.
February 11, 2011
On Wednesday, UK jewelers announced the launch of "Fairtrade" gold jewelry. Some jewelers have already been using gold from these same Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) mines, but two of the mines have recently been certified "Fairtrade." What are these mines, and what does "Fairtrade gold" mean?
The mines, one in Colombia and one in Bolivia, demonstrate both the potential benefits and the problems of the Alliance for Responsible Mining/Fairtrade Labeling Organization certification standards for "Fairtrade" and "Fairmined." The mining and certification may well benefit the communities on the short-term, and the Colombian Oro Verde mine does not use mercury or cyanide. On the other hand, reclamation and restoration standards are poorly defined at both mines, and the Bolivian mine allows mercury use and is located in a National Park. The Colombian mine is in the Choc , a department that has experienced significant armed conflict.
February 10, 2011
A positive and partial outcome of the high-profile debate on fracturing: our state agencies are starting to actively discuss the importance of containing oil and gas wastes in various aspects of the drilling and production process.
In late December the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission passed a new rule that requires the use of portable frack tanks in the Niobrara oil shale play, as well as other areas in the state where groundwater is less than sixty feet from the surface.
The WOGCC s move to contain frack waste is a smart one, albeit long over due and narrowly focuses on containing just one toxic component of the drilling and production process -- fracturing fluids.
Landowners across the West have been calling for containment and proper disposal of pit waste for years. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange points out in an analysis of New Mexico drilling pit waste that 57% of pit chemicals found were volatile -- with known health effects to the respiratory, skin and sensory, cardiovascular, developmental, reproductive, and endocrine systems.
February 10, 2011
There s nothing like a long, frigid winter to prove what a great idea it is to have well-insulated, energy efficient buildings. President Obama spotlighted research underway at Penn State to develop more such structures during a visit to the campus last week and while there chose not to focus on the university s less laudable energy-related activities.
Maybe that s because in the recent State of the Union address, the President put natural gas in the same category as clean energy sources like wind and solar. This approach jibed with that taken by the Penn State s Board of Trustees, which voted in late January to get the school s steam plant off of coal and onto natural gas.